The UN International Labor Organization (ILO) [official website] on Friday released a report [text, PDF] urging greater efforts to end forced labor. The ILO estimates that 21 million people are subject to forced labor, which often includes human trafficking for labor exploitation. The report stressed the need for more stringent action to prevent abuses, identify victims and prosecute perpetrators. It also noted that countries in Latin America and Asia have enacted policies and action plans to address and criminalize forced labor, but the report concluded that such measures have been unsuccessful in acting as a deterrent and that many problems still exist. According to the ILO, punishment is often a small fine or very short prison sentence, many countries do not sufficiently inspect labor conditions, and identifying victims remains a challenge. In an upcoming meeting at ILO headquarters this week, the need for further measures will be discussed [press release], focusing particularly on prevention, victim protection and trafficking for labor exploitation. The meeting will also reexamine the Forced Labor Convention and the Abolition of Forced Labor Convention [texts], which are aimed at guaranteeing freedom from forced labor for all human beings.
In recent years, forced labor has been a growing subject of international attention, with particular reference to human trafficking. Last month the ILO released a report highlighting the vulnerability of domestic workers [JURIST report] worldwide. In June the ILO released a report estimating that forced labor workers nearly doubled [JURIST report] worldwide from its 2005 estimate of 12 million. In November 2011 the UN criticized North Korea for allegedly abusing political prisoners in forced labor camps [JURIST report]. In August of the same year, the UN urged Thailand to combat forced labor [JURIST report], especially with regard to human trafficking. During the same month, the BBC reported [JURIST report] that the government of Zimbabwe is running illegal mining camps using forced labor.